So I was shelving in the Romance section at work today, and I couldn’t help but think about how we really, really need a different flavor of romance than what’s out there now.

We have a pretty good selection now I admit, we have historical, modern, vampires, mythological, etc etc, but what’s eating at me a bit is the predictability of the characters in the stories.  Now most romance characters, male and female, fall under a few specifically defined roles:

Women: depending on the sub-genre, the women vary between two different types, the first being weak willed, mindless, helpless creatures who completely deny their feelings towards the man of the hour for one reason or another no matter how many times they fall in bed together.  This type of woman is usually but not exclusively restricted to historical romance.  Then you have the so-called modern women who, while ’empowered’ (jobs, mortgages, etc.) have so many self esteem issues its a wonder they aren’t all banging their therapists.  They generally wear old lady clothes and are surprised when the male lead takes an interest in them.  Either that or they have a hate-on for men in general and start a sed hate/love relationship with the eye candy.  This type of woman is usually restricted to the modern/urban fantasy romance.

Men: Dark, broody personalities with pasts to match.  Usually deny themselves the heroine because of bad relationships in the past/”I’m not good enough”/”I’m too dangerous” /”she’d be better off without me” mentality, again despite how many times they jump each other.  This kind of man is found across all romance sub genres, so really they’re not so different from each other.

Both: Tall, blonde, and beautiful.  Ok not always blonde, but you get the point.  And to be fair who can really challenge this?  No one wants to read about how the woman with the cleft lip gets the man with the receding hairline.  I’m, sorry, but it’s true.  The characters can be on the ‘heavier’ side of things, which is a great progression so far, but heaven forbid there are any physical deformities.  (This excludes physical handicaps as I have come across a few characters on crutches, in wheelchairs, etc.; although they don’t start out and never seem to end that way)

Plot: Characters meet, get into bed together, one/both try and deny their feeling for whatever reason.  Enter main bad guy/conflict.  Characters spend more time together, fall in love after more denials, defeat the bad boy, and usually (but not always) only at the end confess their love for each other and live happily ever after.  Epilogue: Married with baby on the way.  Sometimes baby revealed in final chapter, so sometimes babe-in-arms here.

What I think we need is a romance book where the leading roles are essentially gender swapped.

The story I envision has the opposite of the male/female roles you would normally see.  The woman is the dark broody one, the man is all sweet and sensitive, and what about she goes after him first?  I know in the romance I read the women do go after the men, but that’s usually after the guy makes the first move and the girl is like “My turn!”

Now how about some vices in the characters?  Maybe she’s a smoker, a drinker, maybe she’s so heavily tattooed she looks like a living canvas.  I would say ‘maybe he’s’ here, but it’s generally more accepted for these vices to be in men, not women.  We’re breaking rules here people!  And how about she makes the first move, and he’s the shy, hesitant one?  He’s the one who’s the upstanding citizen who questions the success of this relationship.  Etc.

Here’s the story that pops into mind.  Hopefully it gives you a better picture than what my ramblings have so far.

Well-to-do guys walks into a bar.  Bartender is a woman, as described above.  She’s tattooed, she smokes, she drinks, she cusses like a sailor.  He does none of this (except drink, durr) but finds himself intrigued by her as he pours his heart out to the sympathetic bartender.  Maybe he got passed over his promotion, his wife left him, something that makes him come into that bar and start talking to her. So yeah, he’s talking to her, he’s interested, but figure she’d never go for a ‘straight laced’ guy like him.

She meanwhile, sees him come in and gives him the once over.  Ok, he’s not the kind of guy she normally goes for, but he’s cute.  She listens to his story, becomes interested in turn for whatever reasons that resonate within her.  Lousy ex husband? Boyfriend?  Maybe she was once in the rat race too.  Anyway, he stays till the bar closes down, she offers to take him home, they have a wild night together, and go their separate ways.  At least for now.

See, now he’s made this bar his watering hole, and drops in…we’ll say twice a week.  And almost every time he does, they go home together.  It’s just sex at first.  They like each other well enough, but they’re too different.  It will never work.

Insert major conflict.  Maybe estranged wife is trying to blackmail the hero, maybe ex boyfriend comes back into the picture for the heroine.  Either way, they spend more days than night together, realize Hallelujah, we’re in love!  Fight, make up many times over, defeat the bad guy and ride off into the sunset together.  The End.

Ok I know plot wise it’s pretty typical and I’m cool with that.  Because really it wouldn’t be romance if there wasn’t some kind of happily ever after.  My thing is breaking the character mold here.  I am tired of seeing these prim and proper women getting all these bad boys.  Yeah, I know, every woman wants the bad boy.  But what about the good boy getting the bad girl?  Or the bad girl getting the bad boy?  Something different for pity’s sake.

I think really what I’m interested in is something more to my reality.  I drink, I used to smoke regularly and still do on the rare, very stressed out occasion.  I have piercings, I want tattoos (never seem able to save up for them) and I tend to be dark and broody.  I listen to hard rock/punk music, and back in the day I did the whole ‘goth’ thing: dark clothes, spiky jewelery, black makeup, the works.

My boyfriend is pretty much my opposite.  No drinking, smoking, piercings or tattoos.  We listen to the same kind of music sometimes, but he never did the goth thing.

This is my reality.  My relationship.  My Romance if you will and Jeebus doesn’t that sound corny.  But it’s me and my life.  And it would be nice to see a book that reflects that for once.  I’m sure there are more women out there than me who would read it.

I’m just saying…

And yes I am well aware of my previous rant about realism vs escapism in books.  Yes I am aware of the irony/hypocrisy.  My point for that post (which I think got lost in translation because it’s a topic that really frustrates me) is that you shouldn’t try reading so much into a book that you ruin it for yourself.  Here, I’m just saying that I really think we need something different, and my reality is different than what is out there right now.